The Magnificent Monarch Art Trail in South Walton Florida
November 26, 2022 by Kurt Lischka
The Monarch Art Trail (MAT) is an outdoor sculpture project created by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) with support from The St. Joe Community Foundation (StJCF). The art trail honors the magnificent Monarch Butterfly and it's amazing flight ability of up to 2,700 miles and its generational migratory pattern route through SoWal.
The eastern North American monarch population is notable for its annual southward late-summer/autumn migration from the northern and central United States and southern Canada to Florida and Mexico.During the fall migration, monarchs cover thousands of miles, with a corresponding multigenerational return north. The offspring mysteriously know the migration pattern of their ancestors.
The art trail includes eight sculptures designed for installation along South Watersound Parkway’s (open Google map) paved mile-long path that connects Highway 98 and Scenic 30A. The sculptures are complemented with seating, lighting, signage, and our native landscape. Additionally, the Otocast phone app provides insight into the artists’ creative process through audio, text, and geo-locators. Use of the area was made possible by The St. Joe Company and it's adjacent Watersound Camp Creek community with Watersound Club amenitities, including the Camp Creek Golf Course.
SoWal Insider Tip: Make time to also include a visit to the fun and fabulous outdoor art at Rosemary Beach and along the Alys Beach Art Trail. Of special interest to kids and adults is Turtle Bale Green in Alys Beach with sea turtle sculptures and fountain.
A good place to park is just north of the art trail, across Hwy 98 at Watersound Town Center which has events, dining and shopping. On the south end of the trail is the Seacrest community, Alys Beach, and the new Kaiya Beach Resort - all along the east end SoWal Beaches. Almost all of the adjacent area is our beautiful natural coastal forest and wetlands habitat. You'll see lots of local plants, trees, birds and butterflies. Much of the landscaping around the sculptures was thoughtfully planted with attracting butterflies in mind. The sculptures are numbered 1-8 from south to north but starting from either direction is just fine. We'll start with sculpture number one - click on the title link to read more about the artist.
1. Dancing Monarchs by Peter Hazel - a 12-foot tall sculpture of monarch butterflies resting on vine-like plants growing out of the ground. The vines are made out of steel and the butterflies are thick glass and mosaic tile. The butterflies face all directions and are equally beautiful from all directions.
2. Friend of Mine by Andrew Hamilton Reiss - a contemporary composition of a stylized Monarch Butterfly feeding on a milkweed flower. The elegant composition is defined through a distinct line gesture made of formed steel rod. The sophisticated sculpture provides many interesting vantages of the surrounding landscape. The gesture and composition invite the viewer to interact with the art and experience it in-the-round.
3. Roost and Puddle by Anthony Heinz May - The sculptural concept uses up-cycled dead/dying tree waste from log material salvaged from Parks and Recreation services and (or) as located through public/civic stewardship. Through an offsite process of physical pixelation, the artist prepared wood disks of material taken from logs that are then cut into cubes and drilled to be installed on site using armatures of steel rebar embedded in the natural trunk base for the cubes to appear dissolving off its natural growth pattern. Sculpture materials have no negative ecological impact on the environment they are installed in, and become extensions of nature and natural cycles found there.
4. The Golden Flight by Rachel Herring - The sculpture is inspired by the Golden Spiral. The Golden Spiral is a logarithmic spiral whose growth factor is φ, the golden ratio. The spiral gets wider (or further from its origin) by a factor of φ for every quarter turn it makes. Many objects in nature appear with the golden spiral. Some examples are the shell of a nautilus, the rotations of hurricanes, the growth pattern of leaves on succulents, and the design in which sunflower seeds grow within a sunflower. The main part of the sculpture consists of 10 pieces of stainless steel bands formed into the shape of the Golden Spiral. Once in place, the spirals create the impression of different pieces of nature, from a wave, to shells, and most notably, wings.
5. Kaleidoscope by Jonathan Burger - a twelve-foot tall figure made of 304 stainless steel butterflies. The artwork references the yearly migration of the Monarch, and their survival technique of roosting together in trees to survive temperature drops. While individually the monarch would not be able to live through the winter, by combining their body heat, they are able to weather it. This same technique is used by us humans on a grander scale, by creating societies that allow us to pool our resources and help each other. It is only through this process of pooling resources and acting as a community that we advance our societies to this point, and continue to advance them in the future.
6. The Milkweed King by Mark Metz - a playful representation of the Monarch Butterfly during the caterpillar phase of its lifecycle. Designed to bring a smile, the larger-than-life, friendly caterpillar with sunglasses is built in such a way to create a photo opportunity as his tail will function as a perch to sit on. Constructed from sturdy and durable forged iron, stainless steel, and copper, this rotund and huggable resident of the park is human-scale, standing between four and five feet tall, nestled between large leaves of Asclepius, aka the common milkweed. "the inspiration for The Milkweed King comes from a neighbor of mine who propagates milkweed and shares the seeds and seedlings with people all over the country," Mark says. While Monarchs in flight are marvelous and spectacular, without the milkweed that feeds the caterpillars, there would be no butterflies at all.
7. The Grandchildren Return by Grace Cathey - The piece represents the life stages and metamorphosis all living things go through. The natural surroundings of SoWal sustain the monarchs and strengthen them for their journey. In turn, they share the secrets of our special place with future generations and the “grandchildren” return. In the same way the monarch is able to survive and thrive in the warm climate and on the indigenous flora of Northwest Florida, so too are the people of the area able to flourish through the education, inspiration, and beauty the arts provide. The grandchildren of future generations, like the monarchs, will have their lives enriched and strengthened.
8. Tetelestai with Butterfly by Jeffie Brewer - a coated steel sculpture, the piece is inspired by one of the artist's favorite poems, Tetélestai by Conrad Aiken of Savannah, GA. Tetelestai is Greek for “it is finished”. The artist invites viewers to reflect on both the poem and the sculpture.
SoWal Insider Tip: in celebration of monarch butterflies, local arts, SoWal nature, and the kid inside all of us - be sure to catch the Flutterby Art Festival held in November each year at Watersound Town Center.
Update from the CAA:
(Sept. 22, 2022) - The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) announces that improvements were recently made to the Watersound® Monarch Art Trail (WMAT), a program of the CAA’s Art in Public Spaces (AIPS) program featuring eight original sculptures installed along South Watersound Parkway’s existing mile-long walking and bike path. The WMAT was created in 2021 with support from the St. Joe Community Foundation (SJCF), and use of the area was made possible by The St. Joe Company.
With additional support by SJCF, the CAA partnered with Sandhills Native Nursery to clear existing plant beds, install native pollinators, including Blue Sage, Lantana, Seaside Goldenrod, Milkweed, Silk Grass, Skullcap, and dozens more around each of the eight sculptures; and spread wildflower seeds along the forest’s tree line. Around 60 volunteers, including students from the Abadie Academy, Magnet Innovation Center (STEAM) and Westonwood Ranch worked to clear and install the ecologically sustainable gardens over the course of two days. Additionally, custom benches created by local craftsman Jim Foley and updated solar powered lighting will be installed this month.
“This phase of the Watersound® Monarch Art Trail improvement is focused on sustainability and providing the public with continuous enjoyment of the artwork and native plantings,” said CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele. “We are fortunate to have found a partner in Sam Mello of Sandhills Native Nursery who designed the garden beds to withstand longer periods of dry weather, enabling the garden to be low maintenance and remain beautiful and functional year-round.”
Northwest Florida is part of the migratory path of the recently-classified endangered Monarch butterfly, and every fall thousands of Monarchs can be seen enjoying the indigenous flora that grows in Walton County. Since 1992, the CAA has celebrated this natural event with an annual children’s arts and science festival called The Flutterby Festival. In its 30th anniversary, the Festival will feature the WMAT guided tours on Saturday, November 12th and a family festival in Watersound® Town Center on Sunday, November 13th.
The guided tours will be co-led by the CAA’s Program Manager Courtney Malone and Mello, owner of Sandhills Native Nursery, who will provide guests with fun and educational information about each piece of artwork and how the new native plantings enhance and sustain the overall project while providing habitat for the Monarch butterfly and other important insects. The WMAT guided tours are free and open to the public and are scheduled for Saturday, November 12th at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m..
The 30th annual Flutterby Festival will take place Sunday, November 13th from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. in Watersound® Town Center and will feature food trucks, live music, dance and theatre performances, student butterfly art exhibits, art activities like the butterfly wing creation station and craft-making as well as the butterfly learning center, carnival games, and a butterfly parade at the end of the day.
Professional artists will be exhibiting and selling their work throughout the weekend, and official Flutterby merchandise featuring artwork by local student artist Ella Townley of Seaside School, will be available for purchase. The Flutterby Festival weekend events are free and open to the public. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, and some activities require a small fee. Parking, including accessible parking, will be available on-site.
The Flutterby Festival weekend is presented with support from the St. Joe Community Foundation, Watersound® Town Center and from the Florida Department of State Division of Arts and Culture. Additional sponsorships available, email Gabby Callaway at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Artists and food trucks interested in participating in the Flutterby Festival may submit an application online through October 29, 2022. Volunteers are needed to help create all the fun! Please visit www.CulturalArtsAlliance.com/volunteer to sign up. For more information on the AIPS program, the Flutterby Festival, and the CAA, please visit www.CulturalArtsAlliance.com or call 850-622-5970.